Best Buys should be able to take care of him. They have a decent selection of HT gear in their Magnolia section.
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I agree with Jmcgrogan. To be in the safe side, tell your son ahead of time before making a purchase and or going to the BestBuy store. First, tell them about your goals and your rooms.
Second, if you can, please include a sketch of the rooms involved, so they get a sense of the space youre working with.
Third, Home Construction (please check those that apply)
__ Wood frame
__ Concrete block
Can you give us an overview of what you have in mind?
If youre interested in a multi-room setup, which of these best describes your vision?
__ A primary entertainment room, plus a secondary room or zone (such as a kitchen, deck, etc.)
__ A primary entertainment room, plus several secondary zones
If you chose several secondary zones, what spaces would you be using as a secondary zone?
Who will be using it?
Who will be the primary operator(s)?
Lastly, if BestBuy is not the store i call and recommend Cructchfield.com or you can call them 1-800-955-3000 because they have more selection. In addition, free shipping, excellent customer service, 60 day money back guarantee, and technical support for life of the product you buy from them.
I hope this was helpful
Depending on what you mean by "Modest to moderately priced new", I'll offer 2 or 3 thoughts.
1) IMHO, the single biggest opportunity to maximize the SOUND QUALITY of most multi-channel rigs (as opposed to typical 2 channel set-ups) is found in the processing software that integrates the subwoofer(s) and corrects for room effects. Many AVRs use Audyssey for this purpose. Audyssey comes in many "flavors", the most expensive of which is Audyssey xt32. IMO, xt32 is fantastic and worth seeking out (and paying up for) if you can manage the price tag (AVRs with xt32 start out just under $1500).
2) The choice of subwoofer(s) is vast. SVS and Rythmik (my choice) both outperform their price tags on test results. The SVS may work a tad bit better on the very deep sub-bass that typifies cinema use, while the Rythmiks probably have an slight edge one octave up (I'll call that "musical bass info"). SVS starts at +/- $650 (or $1150/pr.), with the Rythmiks starting out about a hundered bucks more.
7.2 or 9.2 channel AVRs allow the use of a pair of subs. This offers certain advantages in smoothing FR in the bass region and increasing ultimate max clean SPL, but the room-correction software will address the former and the latter may not be critical (depending on room size, preferred playback levels, etc.). If budget is an issue, he can always add a second sub later.
3) The rest of the system (source, main and center/side speakers) offers a choice of SQ and/or features that really are a matter of taste (much as in 2 channel systems) and really demands personal research to make a good choice. You could always mention any monitors that you like that meet the budget, but I'd encourage him to go 'hands-on" for these purchase decisions.